Looking across the court at the tip-ff, the Michigan women’s basketball team saw an immediate advantage — its height.
With four of Oakland’s starters listed well below 6-feet, the Wolverines (2-0 overall) used their height advantage to make their physical presence known down low, harnessing it to defeat the Golden Grizzlies (1-2), 80-39.
It was obvious early that Michigan could dominate in the paint, especially with its size advantage. The early key that got it going was senior forward Cameron Williams. Tallying four of the Wolverines’ 11 points and four offensive rebounds in the first six minutes of play, Williams was a force. And the offense followed her lead, jumping out quickly.
“I knew from the jump we would have a huge advantage in the post,” Williams said. “It was something we really harped on and today we obviously capitalized on that.”
With its offense clicking, Michigan used its size to fluster Oakland on the defensive end as well. Forcing eight turnovers and three offensive fouls in the first quarter put the ball back in the Wolverines’ hands. With the additional offensive possessions, they kept punching it in down low to power a 19-4 run that ended the quarter with Michigan up 25-6.
The Wolverines weren’t able to carry that momentum into the second quarter, though. With just one field goal in the first four minutes of the frame, Michigan stagnated with smaller lineups. But eventually, a layup from Williams served as a catalyst to get the offense moving again — and then the floodgates opened back up.
A barrage of layups got the Wolverines going, and relying on its size once again proved beneficial for Michigan, closing out the half hot and with a commanding 43-16 lead.
Coming out of the locker room, Oakland — although down 27 points — stepped up the pressure. The Golden Grizzlies entered a full-court press in hopes of slowing down the Wolverines’ offense again — and initially, they did. Michigan struggled against the press early, turning the ball over three times in the first six minutes of the third quarter. But the Wolverines kept punching it down low with eight points in the paint during that span, using their height to counter Oakland’s attacks.
“Something that we were emphasizing the last week is obviously taking care of the ball,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “We always want to limit our turnovers as best we can, but also finding people and making extra passes.”
Eventually attacking the press and sharing the ball around, the Wolverines once again found their rhythm in the latter half of the third quarter just as they did in the second. This cleaner attack resulted in Michigan pouring 12 points through the last three and a half minutes.
While the Wolverines were unable to use their strong ending to the first quarter to fuel the second, they carried their dominance from the end of the third quarter into the final period.
After 30 minutes of various failed attempts to outplay Michigan’s size advantage, Oakland eventually found itself down 66-27 while nursing a 40-to-12 disadvantage of points in the paint — and that didn’t change in the final frame. The Wolverines started to expand on the inside game, exposing defenders helping down into the post with kick outs to the outside, resulting in five second half threes.
“If you can go inside out and you can knock down shots like that it makes you really hard to defend,” Barnes Arico said. “… It’s just tough to defend if you try to double inside then you kick it back out and you knock down those shots.
Ultimately, Williams secured her first double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds, graduate guard Lauren Hansen reaped the benefits of finding her bigs with eight assists, and Michigan’s continual push to play through to post was a success.
Utilizing a clear height advantage from the start, Michigan’s victory was never in doubt throughout the entire game. Although the Wolverines struggled at times with consistency, going back to that height advantage proved effective in downing Oakland.